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In the same nature of whether firearms are on-topic or not, are questions about the history of martial arts on-topic or off-topic? I feel that for a niche subject, questions about history should be allowed here unless they are wildly off-topic.

At what point should historical questions be considered off-topic? I've asked a question about why firearms are not used in martial arts from a historical context. Should this question be closed or not?

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Yes, history is important in martial arts. It explains many aspects of why each martial art is the way it is. Each art was formed at a certain time, under circumstances/motivations that were unique for it. Failing to take into account the history of a martial art can lead to an inferior understanding of it. (Perhaps not in the techniques, but certainly the philosophy.)

For example, Judo was designed as a training art. It contains many techniques from other arts, but the philosophy was that it was for training and therefore the energetic techniques (throws and groundwork) were left in, but the overtly attacking techniques (kicks and punches) were left out. Until you know this, it seems strange that Judo is quoted as coming from arts that have many dangerous techniques in them, but somehow they got lost in the transition.

Similarly, it is my understanding that Wing Chun Kung Fu was designed initially for ladies and that explains the economy emphasis on movement and the straight-line target area on the opponent.

Note: Edited because it was rightly pointed out that I'd answered the wrong question.

  • I'm asking more about history rather than about guns specifically. There is a meta discussion about firearms that I linked in my meta question above. – Matt Chan Feb 3 '12 at 16:32
  • @Matt Chan - You're right. My response was to the wrong question. Too much meta! Meta-meta? I'll edit my answer. – Simon Peter Chappell Feb 3 '12 at 18:15
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I think that the history of martial arts should be on topic but history relating to martial arts is not. Of course, we can always move questions instead of closing them -- in fact one of mine could be moved here.

On topic: Why did Ueshiba travel to China and how did it influence his martial art? Why are katana cuts done from the side of the body in some styles and not others?

Off topic: Why was the Shaolin temple burned for the first time? What advances did Japanese smiths made in the Shengoku-jidai?

  • Those are good examples. The burning of the Shaolin temple is interesting and debatable, but I think ultimately it is off-topic since there are other areas (i.e. political, cultural) regarding that topic which isn't necessarily related to martial arts. – Matt Chan Feb 3 '12 at 15:37
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As martial artists what we learn now is rooted in hundreds of years of tradition and history. Questions specifically about the history, linage or tradition of a martial art or martial arts in general should be allowed.

What we should be careful of is not to delve into political and sometimes even cultural interpretations in the area of that martial arts history as it can tend to be too subjective to further a meaningful discussion.

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